America’s Cup Sails Again this Week — Watch it on YouTube

Oracle Racing 4

I hope that you caught the last World Series of sailing on San Francisco Bay a few months ago — blustery conditions made for some exciting sailing. Well round two starts today on the Bay and while the weather looks to be tamer it is always hard to predict.

The races will occur starting this morning and running through the 7th, with Tuesday just consisting of practice rounds. Wednesday the match race qualifiers start at 4 p.m. PT, with match race quarterfinals on Thursday starting at 12:30, followed by a Blue Angels flyover. The cool thing is for online viewers the races can be watched live Thursday through Saturday on the America’s Cup YouTube channel; locally in the Bay Area the races will be on NBC. (Here’s the full schedule). On Sunday, the only live viewing is on NBC, but it will be broadcast nationwide, beginning at 1:30 p.m. (PDT).

Friday will see additional match race quarterfinals as well as the start of fleet racing, starting at 4 p.m. Saturday has the match race semifinals and then the finals as well as additional fleet racing. Sunday wraps up the event with an event called Super Sunday Fleet Race.

The races take place during San Francisco’s annual Fleet Week so that viewers will also be able to see, and in some cases visit, U.S. Naval ships. [editor’s note: It also means that downtown traffic and parking, never good, will be even worse.]

The America’s Cup races are part of the AC World Series, a set of races that use a boat that is specifically designed for these races, the AC45 catamaran, a much smaller ship that those used for the actual cup, which are in the AC72 class.

The events are match and fleet races and currently the Oracle Racing 4 team is ahead of Luna Rossa Piranha by a point, 86 to 85, after the first round held in August. After this week’s racing the event moves next year to Venice on April 16-21 before finishing in Naples the following month with the races being sailed from May 14-19.

America’s Cup World Series Starts Today in San Francisco Bay

AC World Series on SF Bay

If you are in the Bay Area this week you might want to head over to the Marina district in San Francisco to catch some of the America’s Cup World Series events that start today on San Francisco Bay.

This is not the actual America’s Cup race, those are slated to begin next year, nor is it a set of races that will enable the winner to advance to next year’s race but rather a set of competitions between smaller boats.

The World Series races use 45 foot boats, called AC45s, rather than the 72 foot AC72 models that will race next year for the trophy. There will be 11 teams on the water and the format will be very different as well.

This is head to head sailing with a multitude to teams participating. The teams are seeded and the racing qualifiers start today, followed by quarterfinal races on both Thursday and Friday. The semifinals will be Saturday and the finals on Sunday.

This is a new format, from the previous (and first) sailing of the America’s Cup World Series that will have six teams competing today in the qualifiers. The other five are the top ranked boats from the standings of the 2011-12 ACWS Match Racing Championship. The top three from today advance to the semi’s tomorrow.

It is interesting to note that there are several possible race course configurations, depending on how the wind is, or is not, blowing on any given day. As anybody who has spent any time on the Bay knows it has a strong current, an almost constant chop and usually strong winds that shift directions as the day goes by.

It is interesting to note that while the teams spend millions on their boats, there is no purse in the America’s Cup, they do it for bragging rights and the ability to be the home team and select the race site for the next cup defense. It would be nice to have that much money to throw around.


The War of Words begins between ESPN and NBC Sports

ESPN has had an emerging rival in the all-sports all day broadcasting model in recent days with the rise of NBC Sports Network, and while the two have not had much to say about each other that may be changing.

According to USA Today the war of words began earlier this week when ESPN President John Skipper made some comments about rival NBC during ESPN’s upfront presentation that on the face of them did not seem to extreme, but that lit the fuse.

NBC shot back deriding ESPN’s quality and the value they deliver for the dollar they charge, ESPN shot back that more people use its mobile app than watch NBC, and so it goes. I expect that this will continue for some time, mostly at events such as the upfront presentations.

For those of you with a long memory you will recall the battles between ESPN and rival Fox when Fox was working on establishing itself as a 24/7 sports network. They sniped at each other; put their logos over all sorts of images to prevent rivals from using them and a host of other actions, many of them infantile.

Ah, the good old days. First they seemed to come to an understanding and ceased over use of their respective logos and refrained saying trite and petty things about each other and then finally Fox eventually threw in the towel and dropped its efforts, although rumors have recently come that it might be reexamining the idea.

While in some ways this current fight has no impact on sports fans, in other ways I believe that it will have a positive one. Competition is good for fans because hopefully it means the players involved will raise their game. I think that the rise of MLB’s network has made ESPN raise the level of Baseball Tonight, for instance.

One issue is that there is little overlap, ESPN has a large range of premium sports and NBC does not, although it does have the upcoming Olympics and a few other sports such as the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, which are seeing a strong resurgence in viewership. Other events such as the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012 and the Amgen Tour of California, while very good, just do not have the viewership of or the range of games that ESPN rolls out.

Volvo Ocean Race Coverage Brings Excitement to Sailing Event

An odd thing happened last night while searching for a baseball game on television, I found a boat race on Root Sports (who came up with that name?) and actually became engrossed in what was happening and the outcome.

The event was part of an event called the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012, formerly called the Whitbread Round the World Race and the current race started last October with a departure from Alicante, Spain and finishes this July with the conclusion of the race at Galway, Ireland.

There are six teams involved and each has 11 members on board. Any type of sailboat is allowed in the race. You can get the same type of information from the web site as you could from a more mainstream sport- live video updates, pictures, information on teams and boats and positioning of where all of the boats are when they are out on the water.

The leg of the race I saw was a rerun of the segment that was coming into Auckland, and had them sailing amid the Solomon Islands, site of the WWII battle of Guadalcanal among others, and the sailors were worrying about the wind being blocked by the islands etc…

I am not sure how many people are interested, and aside from a very occasional glance at the America’s Cup I have never watched yachting before, but found there was a good deal more in terms of strategy and tactics than I had believed there to be.

On Saturday the boats depart Itajai, Brazil on Leg 6 and will head out towards Miami, a trip that is expected to take roughly 20 days. From Miami the race will head to Lisbon, then Lorient and end in Galway. Even if you are not that interested the documentary on the Leg 5 segment, through the Southern Ocean, the roughest in the world, is very interesting, and convinced me I am not set to be a sailor.